Today is the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, a national commemoration of the end of slavery. This celebration, which is a landmark event in the history of human rights, has Texas origins. When Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, he issued General Order Number 3, which read in part: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights…. “
General Orders, No.3 June 19, 1865, printed in the Galveston Tri-Weekly News. From the Briscoe Centers Texas Newspapers Collection.
In honor of the Juneteenth holiday, the Briscoe Center presents special features on its web site that sample the center’s many resources available for research and teaching about the history of African American experience in the United States.
The center’s resources include the Natchez Trace Collection, one of the largest archives in existence documenting the history of the institution of slavery and enslaved people in the Deep South, and the Texas Works Projects Administration’s (WPA) Archive of Slave Narratives, which includes the recollections of formerly enslaved individuals who recalled the moment they learned of their freedom on that day. Other significant resources at the center include the Almetrius Duren papers, which document racial segregation and integration at the University of Texas at Austin; a massive archive of photographs illustrating the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against racial injustice in America; the papers of civil rights leader Dr. James Farmer; the Stephen Shames photographic archive documenting the Black Panthers and race-based economic injustice; the photo archive of Flip Schulke, who was Dr. Martin Luther King’s personal photographer and which contains the largest collection of photographs of Dr. King and his activities in existence, and many other resources across numerous collections.
The center has collected these materials to educate the American people not only about our nation’s shameful record of racial injustice and oppression, but also to document the significant contributions that black Americans have made to our nation. And while the center remains temporarily closed to visitors, researchers can still access over 150,000 photographs, documents and other materials in our online media repository.
In closing, I want to again echo the sentiments of UT’s president Jay Hartzell, who says that “our state, nation and society have come a long way in the more than 150 years since the first Juneteenth. But the killing of George Floyd and other recent events show we still have a very long way to go.” With this in mind, I want to state unequivocally that the Briscoe Center stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against anti-black racism.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History